ACLU Calls on Senate to Reject Discriminatory Marriage Amendment

March 23, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – As the Senate Judiciary Committee convened a hearing to consider a proposal that would write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution by denying marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples, the American Civil Liberties Union today strongly urged Senators to reject the proposed amendment, saying that such an extreme measure could forever deny important protections to same-sex couples.

The ACLU also noted that the measure as written is fundamentally at odds with basic principles of federalism and state authority, which has made the amendment a wedge issue even among conservatives. Groups ranging from the NAACP to the Presbyterian Church join the ACLU in its opposition.

“Some lawmakers want to see discrimination added to the Constitution to score a few cheap political points,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Such a measure not only harms the fabric of our founding document — it also hurts real families and real children.”

Prior to the hearing, the ACLU co-hosted a news conference where children of gay and lesbian families and their advocates spoke out against a proposed amendment that seeks to include discrimination in the Constitution. Two children from gay and lesbian families were joined by a pediatrician from the Children’s National Medical Center and the Executive Director of the Family Pride Coalition. (see below for links to statements)

The sponsors of the amendment – Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) – yesterday offered a new amendment, but the ACLU said that the new language does not change any of the significant problems with the earlier proposed constitutional amendment.

The only significant difference between the two versions is that the new proposal prohibits the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions from being used to provide “legal incidents” of marriage to gay and lesbian couples, but does not prohibit state or federal statutes or executive actions from providing those benefits.

“The latest proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to discriminate against gay and lesbian families is a desperate political move,” Anders said. “The sponsors of the amendment realized that they did not even have a simple fifty-percent majority, much less a two-thirds majority in either house of Congress.

“The latest draft won’t change a single vote in Congress,” Anders added. “The two principal reasons that opponents of the constitutional amendment have for opposing it are that the country should not write discrimination into the Constitution, and that there is no reason to amend the Constitution when the federal statute on marriage has never been invalidated by any court.

“There is not much difference between the two versions of the amendment,” Anders concluded. “The new proposal would still write discrimination into the Constitution, deny all states the right to decide who can get married in their states, preempt the state constitutions of the fifty states, prohibit such important court decisions as the Vermont civil union decision and the Oregon domestic partnership decision, and potentially jeopardize a wide array of other rights provided to gay and lesbian couples and their children.”

To read the statement of Michael Cooper, 15, Springfield, VA, go to:

To read the statement of Justin McGuire, 10, Fullerton, MD, go to:

For more on the ACLU’s opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment, go to:

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